This year, women will celebrate International Women’s Day with a renewed sense of strength. In many places around the world women are taking stands against sexual harassment, and sexual violence. While in North America this is often connected with what is called the #metoo movement, it is also happening in countries as diverse as India, Ireland and Japan. We know that sexual violence is still common – in particular women who are Indigenous, racialized, trans, homeless, or sex workers are disproportionately at risk. In war zones, rape is a weapon.
This January there was a second year of marches where those who are gender oppressed displayed resistance against patriarchal violence, inequality, exploitation and oppression perpetuated by capitalism across the globe. Many of the marches had demands that included support for economic equality, women’s right to freedom from violence, full reproductive rights and freedom, full equality rights for the LGBTQ community, racialized peoples, workers, immigrants, those with a disability, for civil rights and environmental justice, and against police brutality and racial profiling, demilitarizing law enforcement and ending mass incarceration.
This fightback is important, but often there is no lasting organizational structure to support it.
The gains of women and the working class, are directly related to the strength and unity of the organizations that fight for their rights.
The retreat and foot dragging of the Liberal government on such matters as the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s Inquiry; pay equity; improved sex work legislation; and a universal, accessible, affordable, quality public childcare system – stands in contrast with their quick stands in favour of Kinder Morgan and Keystone XL pipeline projects, support of the Site C dam, the theft of Indigenous lands and continued genocidal violence.
The government’s support for capitalist globalization and free trade deals such as NAFTA and the TPP extends Canada’s imperialist agenda, where corporations will gain further power and profits, but working people – women and their families – are denied food security, the ability to form or join a trade union, access to affordable housing, healthcare, education, prescription drugs and more. This government, like the Harper Tories, continues to ignore the longstanding demand to create a universal, accessible, affordable, quality, public childcare system.
Women in Canada are losing ground in terms of pay equity and pensions. The gender gap in Canada is now double the global average; racialized women make only 68 cents for every dollar made by non racialized men. The Liberal government has no plans to rectify this situation. Recent pension reforms roll-back gains women had achieved by excluding the years taken off on maternity and parental leaves in calculation of their final pensions. These are not “improvements”; this is austerity. Women are being forced to pay the price for the ongoing capitalist economic crisis and for continuing corporate tax cuts and giveaways. It’s no wonder that a recent study on the Global Gender Gap reached the damning conclusion that at the current rate, it will take 170 years for women to reach equality.
There has been a rise of racist, fascist, and extreme right-wing groups in Canada. Gendered Islamophobic violence occurs all too often in Canada. Muslim women are often verbally attacked and have been physically assaulted by having their hijabs ripped off or worse. As this violence escalates, the government sits idle while the media perpetuates the lie that Western military intervention in the Middle East is required to “save” Muslim women. The Liberals have capped refugee migration and sponsorship to Canada while making war on their North African and Middle Eastern homelands, and exploiting them for photo-ops. This is not feminism.
The truth is, PM Trudeau and the Liberal government cannot claim to be feminist while advocating and defending corporate power and super-profits. Policies and decisions that perpetuate violence against Indigenous women and territories, that deepen and expand gendered and racialized economic inequalities, that impose war and austerity at home and abroad, are all part of the capitalist agenda – an agenda that is incompatible with the demands of working-class women from all communities for peace, equality, democracy and economic and social security for themselves and their families.
Historically the labour movement in Canada has played a major role in building unity for women’s rights. However, women in leadership of the labour movement is on the decline, and those that are left to fight are weakened by the exit of Unifor. We must demand the return of inspired, progressive women into the leadership of the labour movement to unite our class in the fight against the main enemy – capitalism.
We need to continue to Rise Up! We need to organize! The Communist Party of Canada demands Full Gender Equality NOW:
- Restore funding for women’s equality programs.
- Close the wage gap – legislate full pay and employment equity.
- Guarantee accessible and publicly funded abortion and reproductive rights services in every province and territory.
- Create a universal, accessible, affordable, quality, public childcare system, with Canada-wide standards and union wages for childcare workers.
- Protect women’s right to EI maternity coverage; expand parental benefits to 52 weeks.
- End all forms of violence against women and provide adequate funding for crisis centres and transition houses. Repeal Bill C-36!
- Scrap NAFTA, TPP and other treaties for corporate rule.
- No to Islamophobia! End US, Canadian, and NATO intervention in the Middle East, zero tolerance for Islamophobic and gendered violence, and open Canada’s doors to immigrants and refugees. Repeal the Canada-US Safe Third Country Agreement. Repeal Bill C-51, stop Bill C-59 and other unconstitutional and undemocratic security state laws.
- Repeal the Barbaric Cultural Practices Act, which the Trudeau Liberals supported.
- No to austerity. No to war. People’s needs – not corporate greed!
*Note: Women in this statement includes All Women.
Women’s Commission & Central Executive Committee, Communist Party of Canada